Ricotta Gnocchi with Salsa della Nonna

Ricotta Gnocchi with Salsa della Nonna
Staff Writer
Ricotta Gnocchi

Frankie Frankeny

Ricotta Gnocchi

Using ricotta as the base for these gnocchi produces a lighter, pillow-like finished product. Start making the gnocchi at least 48 hours before you want to serve them, as you need to drain the ricotta overnight, and then freeze the gnocchi before cooking. They are perfect when served with this tomato sauce, from Michael Chiarello's grandmother's old recipe, which calls for a whole chicken to impart more flavor.

Adapted from "Michael Chiarello's Bottega" by Michael Chiarello.

Ingredients

For the gnocchi:

  • 3 pounds whole-milk ricotta, drained overnight in cheesecloth
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling and dusting

For the Salsa della Nonna:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 4-pound chicken, quartered
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup peeled and finely diced carrot
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ½ cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed in a food-mill or pulsed 3-4 times in a food processor, juices reserved
  • ¼ cup torn fresh basil leaves

For serving:

  • Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Grated Pecorino-Romano

Directions

For the gnocchi:

Using the back of a large spoon, press the ricotta through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Add the egg yolks and sea salt, and mix with a rubber spatula. Gently fold in the flour; the less you work the dough, the lighter and more tender the gnocchi will be. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Lightly sprinkle your work surface [make sure it is as cold and smooth, like marble or a countertop] and two baking sheets with flour. Pull off about a quarter of the gnocchi dough and gently roll it into a rope about 1 inch wide. Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Gently transfer each gnocchi to a baking sheet and dust with flour. Repeat with the remaining dough, then slide the gnocchi on trays into the freezer and freeze for at least 24 hours, and up to 1 month (the texture is best when they go directly into the water from the freezer).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook about 24 gnocchi for 3-3 ½ minutes, or for 30-45 seconds after they float to the surface. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the gnocchi to warm serving plates. Cook the remaining gnocchi while the first batch is plated.

For the Salsa della Nonna:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. 

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pot and lightly brown it on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate.

Place the Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the rosemary, bay leaf, and red wine. Stir to scrape up the browned bits, then add the chicken, and any accumulated juices, back to the pot. Cook, reducing the liquids until the pot is nearly dry. Pour in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Top the pot with a sweating lid* so it rests on the chicken, and place in the oven. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is cooked through.

With tongs, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and keep warm for serving, or cool, wrap, and chill for later use. Add the torn basil leaves to the sauce and stir

For serving:

Serve about 12 gnocchi per plate. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, and a spoonful of the warm tomato sauce. Finish with a sprinkle of pecorino and serve immediately.

*How to make a sweating lid or cartouche: You can also use a normal pot lid, but the cooking time may increase. Trace the lid of your cooking pot on parchment and cut out a lid with a slightly smaller diameter. The lid helps reduce circulation in the pot, keeping the food more moist.

Gnocchi Shopping Tip

Italian food is about simplicity and letting the ingredients shine. So make sure you get ingredients that are great quality and flavor. Farmers markets and specialty stores will have great produce and products. Just be sure to have some great olive oil.

Gnocchi Cooking Tip

Unlike other highly regarded cuisines, Italian cooking is usually simple to make with many dishes having only 4 to 8 ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation.

Gnocchi Wine Pairing

Sweet chenin blanc, muscat, or amontillado sherry with nut-based desserts; sauternes or sweet German wines with pound cake, cheesecake, and other mildly sweet desserts; sweet chenin blanc or muscat or Alsatian vendange tardive (late harvest) wines with sweeter desserts; sweet chenin blanc or muscat or Alsatian vendange tardive (late harvest) wines, port, madeira, late-harvest zinfandel, or cabernet sauvignon or cabernet franc with chocolate desserts.